The writing team Ilona Andrews does just that in Gunmetal Magic with Andrea, the were-hyena or Bouda friend, and later, partner of Kate Daniels in the Andrews' Magic series. Andrea's problems get star billing ... as she works through a twisting mystery ... while she clears up some personal issues with authority and reconciliation with her lover. Yeah. Andrea is a busy girl in this book.
Perhaps Andrea shows too much "teenage horror-movie stupidity" -- going where "no one with any sense" would go -- in the book, but it's excusable. Workers employed by Andrea's former lover, Rafael, are killed at a construction/mining site. The mystery rises about what was in an empty vault and where did the killing viper bites come from. The puzzle complicates when the possibility of snake weres arises ... when no snake-weres were known before.
Andrea follows the clues to solve the murder mystery no matter where it takes her. Andrea lucks out each time by coming up with both new information and a new twist in the plot line. The complications requiring Rafael's help annoy her the most.
Andrea has always been an independent sort of girl. One who rejects being the delicate sort who needs always needs rescuing. She'll wreck her own mayhem, thank you very much. The Andrews set up the dual conflict and Andrea's problems with authority all in the first two fast moving chapters ... with a minimum of back story. In short, Andrea'd be damned if she'd "bow and scrape" to be admitted to Clan Bouda. -- The book almost earns five stars right there.
The romance is entertaining as well. Not only does Andrea have to face a mother-in-law-from-hell in Auntie B, Rafael's mother and leader of the were-hyena clan, she has to put up with Rafael's protective instincts. How bad is Auntie B? Well, she can make the word "dear" the most threatening word in the dictionary. As for Rafael, he finds some creative ways to annoy her until she gives in and let's him back into her life. Andrea readily admits she loves him, but there's that subservient thing. -- To say more, would destroy the fun of reading the book.
Rating: Five stars. It took me some time to review the book since my pile of "read" books is about a fourth the size of my "to-read" pile. Not only did Gunmetal Magic keep me ready "just one more chapter" past my bedtime, but it goes on my keeper pile.